First, the easy part: You've never seen a theater piece quite like "The Event."
Bob Paisley, co-founder of the Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre, first saw John Clancy's one-actor play at the mother ship of all fringe festivals in Edinburgh, Scotland. It fascinated him, as it should have, and he resolved to learn the piece and perform it himself.
Since then Paisley has acted the show in Kansas City, New York and Britain, and now he's doing it again for the KC Fringe Festival. If I could see a festival show twice, this would be the one.
Performing as John Robert Paisley, the actor plays an actor with no name who describes in precise, often ironic and sometimes hilarious language just what's involved emotionally, psychologically, philosophically - in performing for an audience.
At this point you may be thinking: Oh great; a theater piece about the theater; give me a break. In most cases you'd be right. But "The Event" is its own animal, unlike anything I've seen.
Paisley's challenge is to play a character who is not defined except by his relationship to his audience. Everything that happens happens in the moment. There's no "back story," no questions of "motivation."
For 60 minutes Paisley holds the stage, bare except for the appearance of a chair about midway through, and describes his relationship to the audience, his relationship to the unseen man in the control booth and the relationship between himself as an individual and the character he embodies.
And he analyzes the makeup of the audience. Some will be attentive. Some will nod off. Some will surreptitiously glance at their watches. The audience may also include "professional observers" - and Paisley couldn't resist glancing directly at me toward the end of this section who will go away and write down their thoughts, which may influence others to attend or not attend, which is what I happen to be doing at this very moment.
Occasionally Paisley appears to forget his lines, but it's really just part of the script. Or is it? Paisley and the playwright toy with the audience's expectations and assumptions. At every turn the lines stimulate our imaginations. Every moment gives us something to think about.
Paisley's performance is memorable for its clarity. Every choice is precise. Nothing gets lost in the haze. Every word counts. Every line affects the viewer.
The play may seems to be about the act of creating theater but ultimately it's about much more. It's about something fundamental in human chemistry that makes us want to communicate, to perform, to tell stories - all in the hope of making sense of the universe and discovering what our purpose here may actually be. And it's accomplished by one actor, alone on a stage. This is pure theater, and how refreshing it is.